This year’s race, the 40th anniversary celebration, was won for the first time by Dan Gurney’s All American Racers Toyota Eagle team. Gurney himself was wreathed in smiles being a former winner himself, and so were the winning drivers Juan-Manuel Fangio II and Andy Wallace.
At last, the young Fangio put his name on the trophy bearing his uncle’s name, twice, and Wallace is now the winner of three sportscar classics, Le Mans, Daytona and Sebring.
The Toyota Mk3 has the smallest engine among the top contenders, a 2.1-litre single turbo four-cylinder unit, but it’s powerful, strong and reliable. The chassis, Wallace declares, is the nicest of any of the turbocharged cars he has ever driven, and his praise for Gurney’s team is equally fulsome. Fangio (“a superb driver, greatly underestimated” Wallace believes) and his co-driver took the race as fast as they dared, remaining on level terms with the two NPTI Nissans from the start. Nothing but a few seconds separated the two Japanese makes after seven hours of racing, but Chip Robinson’s Nissan retired unexpectedly with a split oil line, and shortly afterwards Geoff Brabham’s Nissan lost 10 minutes when the headlamps refused to function.
A Joest Porsche 962C was third, followed by the TWR Bud Light team Jaguar XJR-12D driven by Davy Jones and David Brabham. IMSA regulations limit the V12 engine to six-litre capacity, and the XJR12’s performance has improved only marginally in the past four years . . . the turbocharged Nissans and Toyotas have improved a lot!
Nevertheless, Jaguar and Jones continued to lead the IMSA Championship, and plan to capitalise with the World Championship winning XJR-14 in the sprint races which follow.